Snail farming otherwise reffered to as snail rearing is a very lucrative business, not just is it less capital intensive, it also have a huge profit potential. Today, we are going to be discussing about some of the materials that can be used in building snail houses depending on their cost and available, they include:
1. Decay and Termite-Resistant Timber
In West Africa favorable tree species are iroko (Milicia excelsa, local name – odum), opepe (Naucleadiderrichii, local name – kusia), or ekki (Lophira alata, local name – kaku). While in South East Asia poles can be made of a species like teak (Tectona grandis), which is widely planted in other continents as well.
- Sandcrete blocks, or mudbricks.
- Galvanized sheets, polythene sheets.
- Chicken wire, for protection.
- Mosquito nets or nylon mesh, for covering the pens as protection against insects.
- Second-hand materials, like car tyres, oil drums and old water tanks.
In addition to car tyres, oil drums and such materials, the following types of pens might be considered for simple snail houses:
- Hutch boxes
- Trench pens
- Mini-paddock pens
- Free-range pens
2. Car tyres, Oil drums
Discarded tyres or oil drums may serve as relatively cheap snail pens. Three or four tyres are placed on top of each other, with chicken wire and mosquito mesh between the topmost tyre and the second one from the top.
Oil drums should have some holes in the bottom for drainage, be filled with good soil to a depth of 7-10 cm, and be fitted with wire plus mosquito mesh on top.
Such pens are suitable for keeping a few snails (up to about four mature snails in each container) close to the house, for private use.
3 Hutch Boxes
Hutch boxes are square or rectangular, single or multi-chamber wooden boxes with lids, placed on wooden stilts above the ground at a suitable height for easy handling. The stilts should be fitted with plastic or metal conical protectors or aprons, to prevent vermin from crawling or climbing up the stilts to attack the snails in the boxes.
The protectors could be made from old tins or plastic bottles. In the middle of the lid is an opening covered with wire netting and nylon mesh. The lid should be fitted with a padlock to discourage pilfering. In the floor of the box are a few holes through which excess water can drain out.
The boxes are filled with sieved black soil to a depth of 18-25 cm. The box(es) should obviously be well protected from scorching sun or torrential rain.
Application and use
Hutch boxes are useful in a semi-intensive snail breeding system. They are very suitable as hatchery and nursery pens because eggs and young snails can be easily located and observed.
Mature snails in larger snaileries could be transferred to hutch boxes when they start making holes to lay eggs. The breeding snails should be removed to their own pens after the hatchlings start to emerge.
The soil must be changed occasionally because an accumulation of droppings will increase the chances of disease development. A soil changes every three months is adequate.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Snail Hutch Boxes
Hutch boxes can be placed close to the farmer’s house, ensuring good supervision and protection. They are built at a comfortable working height, which facilitates feeding and handling of the snails.
Disadvantages are the cost of construction and their limited size, which restricts the number of snails that can be kept in them (some 30 hatchlings / juveniles, or about three mature snails in a box of the size)
4. Trench pens
Trench pens are adjoining snail pens of 0.6 × 0.6 m to 1 × 1 m, either dug into the ground (which must be very well-drained), or raised 40-50 cm above the ground. Outside walls and inner partitions consist of sand-Crete blocks or mudbricks in either case.
The pens are filled with suitable soil to a depth of 10-15 cm. They are covered with wooden or steel frame lids with chicken wire plus nylon mesh, and fitted with padlocks to discourage poachers. Obviously, the pens must be protected against the fierce heat of the sun or heavy rain.
Shredded semi-dry banana leaves may be spread in the pens to provide shelter for them.
There are Two (2) types of trench pens: A: dug in, B: raised.
Application and Use
Trench pens are suitable in semi-intensive to intensive snail growing ventures. They can be used as hatchery, nursery or fattening pens, with the number of stocks being adapted to the size of the snails in each case. The snails can be moved from one pen to another according to the growing cycle.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantage of a trench pen system, whether sunken or raised above the ground, is its flexibility. It can be moved around easily, in accordance with their size and phase in the growing cycle. The snails are always easy to locate, for feeding, handling, selection and final sale or consumption.
The main Disadvantages of trench pens are (a) construction costs (specifically of raised pens) and (b) the fact that the farmer has to stoop or kneel down to tend the snails.
5 Mini-Paddock Pens
Mini-paddock pens are small square or rectangular pens, usually within a larger fenced area. They are built of bamboo and nylon mesh, or of timber, chicken wire and nylon mesh.
The walls should be some 50 cm high and be dug at least 20 cm into the ground. Wooden frames are attached to the top of the walls (extended inwards) and covered with the mesh, to prevent snails from escaping.
Plants providing shelter and/or food are planted in the pens before snails are released into them. Suitable plants include cocoyam, sweet potato, fluted pumpkin, and leafy vegetables. Rectangular pens allow the farmer easier access to the whole area without having to enter the pens. Mini-paddock pens may also be constructed higher above ground, with a completely enclosed frame, and may even be roofed.
Application and Use
Mini-paddock pens, like free-range pens, are suitable as fattening pens, where snails that are no longer needed for breeding are allowed to put on weight before being collected for consumption or sale. Additional snail food may be placed in the pen, but uneaten food must be removed regularly. Food and shelter plants must be re-planted from time to time.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantage of mini-paddock pens is that snails grow in an environment resembling their natural habitat without much additional effort from the farmer. The limited dimensions of the pen still permit close supervision.
The main disadvantage would seem to be that the snails are not protected against predators, unless the pen is entirely closed and roofed, which makes it more expensive.
6 Free-Range Pens
Essentially, free-range pens are large mini-paddock pens: a fenced area of up to 10 × 20 m, planted with plants, shrubs and trees that provide food and shelter from wind, sun and rain. Just like in a mini-paddock pen, the vertical fence must be extended inwards, to prevent them from escaping. If the fence is constructed of fine chicken wire mesh, the overhang is not obligatory because snails dislike crawling on wire mesh.
The fence must be dug at least 20 cm into the ground. The free-range pen might even be completely enclosed and roofed.
Application and Use
Free-range pens may serve as the sole snail enclosure in an extensive snail farming system, or as growing and fattening pens in a semi-intensive one.
In the extensive farm system the entire life cycle of the snail develops within the open pen: mating, egg laying, hatching, hatchling development, and growth of the snails to maturity. They feed on the plants provided in the pen.
In a semi-intensive farm the free-range pen serves as a growing and fattening pen for adult snails, which were raised through the egg hatchling juvenile stages in hutch boxes or trench pens.
Completely enclosed free-range pen on concrete slab with drains. Note shade trees and palms around, and palm fronds on top to provide shade.
Advantages and Disadvantages
In an extensive system using a free-range pen the snails develop in a near normal habitat. They will take shelter in the vegetation or the soil during the day, coming out at night to feed.
A simple fenced free-range pen is relatively simple and cheap to construct. Management is restricted to occasional replanting of food and shelter plants. If the vegetation within the pen is kept in shape, additional feeding of the snails is not necessary.
A fully enclosed and roofed pen is quite costly to build, obviously, especially if provided with a concrete apron and drain.
Both types require the availability of land with a secure title, considering the investment involved, specifically for the fully enclosed and roofed variety.
The free-range pen has several disadvantages.
- It requires more land than other types of snail farming.
- It is difficult to locate and protect eggs and small snails. This may lead to poor disease management and higher mortality compared to other production systems.
- It is difficult to keep track of snail performance and, for that reason, to keep useful records of inputs and output.
- In the open type of free-range pen, it is more difficult to keep out predators and poachers. Besides the natural shelter provided in mini-paddock and free-range pens, it is advisable to also provide other forms of shelter to ensure that the snails are not exposed to too much heat. For example, concave tiles or split bamboo can be placed on stones on the ground, with the concave side facing downwards. On very hot days, the soil can be cooled by sprinkling water on it.
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